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The Family Dish: Beans, saucy and slow

Braising beans in tomato sauce makes them tender and flavorful. (Domenica Marchetti)

In summer, I barely cook green beans, steaming them just until they are emerald green and crisp, and then I toss them with a little olive oil, lemon juice and salt. But at this time of year, the beans tend to be more mature and not quite so tender. That’s when I switch to braising.

Romano beans are especially good when they are slow-cooked in tomato sauce. In Italian, tomato-braised green beans are called fagiolini all’uccelletto, which essentially translates to “beans cooked in the style of game birds.” Simmered slowly over low heat, the beans lose their toughness yet retain their meaty texture and earthy flavor.

At our house, tomato-braised beans turn up at the table pretty often, because they go well with so many main dishes. I have served them with roast chicken, sauteed fish, grilled steaks, lamb chops and frittatas.

Make sure you also have a loaf of good crusty bread on hand to mop up the sauce.

See the recipe on the next page.


Domenica Marchetti is the author of “The Glorious Pasta of Italy” (Chronicle, June 2011) as well as “The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy” (Chronicle, 2006) and “Big Night In: More Than 100 Wonderful Recipes for Feeding Family and Friends Italian-Style” (Chronicle 2008). She blogs at

Tomato-Braised Romano Beans

6 to 8 servings

To drink: Depending on your main dish, romano beans go well with a medium-bodied red, such as Chianti Classico.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 large cloves garlic, crushed

1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion

1 pound romano beans (stem ends trimmed), cut into 2-inch pieces

1 small small red chili pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced (may substitute a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes)

28 ounces canned, diced, no-salt-added tomatoes, with their juices

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon sweet Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton; optional)

Combine the oil, garlic and onion in a deep-sided saute pan over medium heat. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the onion has softened a bit. Stir in the beans and chili pepper; cook for 2 minutes, then add the tomatoes and their juices. Season with the salt and paprika, if using. Once the mixture starts to bubble, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 25 minutes, or until the beans are tender but not mushy.

Uncover; increase the heat to medium-high and cook for 5 minutes, or until the liquid has thickened into a sauce. Transfer the beans and sauce to a serving bowl; discard the garlic, if desired. Serve immediately.

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